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    National News - MAY

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    Abhishek

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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Fri May 06, 2011 6:13 pm

    Verdict in black money case reserved

    The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict in the petitions filed by the former Union Law Minister, Ram Jethmalani, and others relating to black money stashed away by Indians in foreign banks, even as the Centre strongly opposed the plea to set up a special investigation team (SIT) to track the black money cases.

    A Bench of Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar reserved verdict at the conclusion of arguments from senior counsel Anil Divan and Shanti Bhushan for the petitioners and Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam for the Centre.

    Mr. Divan argued that the High Level Committee, set up by the Centre on April 22 being subservient to the political executive, could not be effective.

    He referred to the consistent stand of the Centre to oppose the SIT and said the constitution of the Committee was to pre-empt the court from using any direction since the present Bench would break up after the summer vacation, in view of the retirement of Justice Reddy in early July.

    Pleading for an SIT, headed by a retired Supreme Court judge to monitor the investigation, he said: “The nodal agency, in its present form, comprises senior bureaucrats of the highest level. While it is suited for the coordination and exchange of information among different investigating agencies, its composition is such that it may not be viewed by the public as completely independent or immune from pressures of every kind. It is, therefore, not suitable for pursuing an investigation of this kind and taking it to the stage of prosecution where there may be nexus between the persons under investigation and powerful persons.”

    He reiterated the demand that the government must make public the names of persons who had kept black money in the Liechtenstein Bank as such information was not covered by any treaty or agreement.

    However, the SG opposed the SIT and said the Committee comprising senior officers could effectively conduct the investigation. Any outsider monitoring the probe could not be accountable to the court and such a mechanism had resulted in failure.

    Justice Reddy told the SG: “Appointing someone to monitor the investigation is not a reflection either on the officers or on their investigation. Our anxiety is that when officers are lacking in will in effectively pursuing the investigation, the SIT can ensure speed and efficiency in the investigation.”

    Justice Nijjar said: “Look at the dimensions of the problem, it will have serious repercussions for the country since Independence.”

    When the SG resisted opposed an SIT, Justice Reddy told him: “The case against Hasan Ali Khan was registered in 2007 and you conduct the custodial interrogation in 2011. What is going on in this country, what is the speed of your investigation, you started the probe only after persistent queries from this court.”

    However, the SG said the SIT might not be necessary at this stage and the Committee should be allowed a free hand to conduct the investigation. The Bench then reserved verdict.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Fri May 06, 2011 6:13 pm

    Supreme Court Bench divided on grant of bail to Maudany

    A Supreme Court Bench hearing Abdul Nasir Maudany's bail plea was on Wednesday divided, with Justice Markandey Katju favouring the grant of bail, and his counterpart, Justice Gyan Sudha Misra, disagreeing with his view.

    The Bench, after elaborate arguments from senior counsel Shanti Bhushan, appearing for Mr. Maudany, an accused in the Bangalore bomb blast case, and senior counsel T.R. Andhyarujina, appearing for Karnataka, requested Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia to post the matter before another Bench, preferably before the court closes for the summer vacation on May 13.

    Mr. Bhushan pleaded for granting Mr. Maudany bail on medical grounds as he was suffering from several ailments. He asserted that there was no evidence against him and that he had been falsely implicated on the basis of some statements given by the co-accused before the police, and which was not admissible as evidence. He alleged that the State government due to political and communal reasons had implicated Mr. Maudany as he was a powerful political and social leader of the Muslim community.

    Mr. Andhyarujina, however, said there were enough materials to show the involvement of Mr. Maudany not only in the conspiracy but also in the blasts that occurred in Bangalore, Ahmedabad and other parts of the country. He said the other accused had clearly stated the role played by Mr. Maudany, which was reflected by the telephone calls he made to the other accused before and after the bomb blasts. His release on bail would pose a serious threat to national security as he was part of the ‘jihadi' element, having connections with banned outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Students Islamic Movement of India, he said.

    Justice Katju said there was no material to implicate Mr. Maudany and that he could be granted bail. He cited the instance of the Supreme Court releasing Dr. Binayak Sen on bail, though the trial court and the High Court took a different view. Justice Katju said that since the police were not scientifically trained to deal with serious crimes, they had a tendency to falsely implicate innocent persons.

    Stating that no comparison could be drawn with Dr. Sen's case, Mr. Andhyarujina said: “Please do no have that analogy. The case of Binayak Sen is different. We are all proud of that decision. This case is different. The man [Maudany] has been accused of killing over 100 people. You cannot have a comparison like that.”

    Justice Gyan Sudha did not accept the contention of Mr. Bhushan and said: “If your argument that police can't arrest persons on the basis of statements made by a co-accused to the police, then no arrests could be made till trial was over and the person was convicted. We better change the Cr. P.C that no person be arrested and put in jail until he or she is convicted. You have to satisfy the conscience of this court that he is innocent despite sufficient material to prove his involvement in the blast. You have not shown even one material to show that he is innocent.”

    Since there was difference of opinion between the two Judges, the matter has been referred to the CJI for posting the case before another Bench.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Fri May 06, 2011 6:14 pm

    Court takes a dig at Balwa's plea to media for self-restraint

    The special court set up to hear cases related to the 2G spectrum scam on Wednesday took a dig at Etisalat DB promoter Shahid Usman Balwa, asking him to exercise “self-restraint” on his own part.

    This was in response to an application Mr. Balwa moved advocating self-restraint by the media.

    The application, filed last Thursday, followed media reports that his counsel had demanded that the Prime Minister be made a witness in the case.

    In the application, Mr. Balwa had retracted counsel's demand for the Prime Minister to be made a witness, and said media personnel “restrain themselves from out-of-context reporting prejudicial to the general interest of the accused.”

    Special Judge (Central Bureau of Investigation) O.P. Saini, in a tersely-worded order, noted: “I do not wish to add anything more except that self-restraint is a great virtue which may be practised and exercised by all concerned, including those who expect it from others.”

    Mr. Balwa had also demanded that “reporting should be in respect of the final orders passed by the court or on submissions made in writing.”
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Fri May 06, 2011 6:15 pm

    Ramdev, followers to observe fast

    Come the fourth of June and yoga guru Ramdev will sit on a fast-unto-death here along with one lakh of his followers. He will break his fast on condition that the government draft a strong anti-corruption Bill with death sentence for the corrupt as its centrepiece.

    Baba Ramdev spearheaded the India Against Corruption movement until he fell out with the other leading lights of the group, namely Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan. And though the Baba showed up briefly at the Hazare fast, he has since made it amply clear that he believes in his own methods of fighting corruption.

    Baba Ramdev, who is currently on a Bharat Swabhiman Yatra, made announcement on his fast in the course of the Maharashtra leg of his tour.

    The yoga guru said a huge number of his followers across the country would sit on fast with him. He said as a disciplined disciple of yoga, he could easily stay hungry for 40 days — time enough for the government to enact the Bill as per his wishes.

    Pointing out that the current drafting committee had not started the actual work, he said unlike some others he would not be cowed down if Parliament rejected the Bill:

    “Our MPs have dragged their feet on the Bill for 40 years. So why should I accept their refusal now?” Mr. Hazare has been quoted as saying he will abide by the will of Parliament.

    The Baba ended his discourse — televised on a faith channel — dramatically by announcing that India would get a strong anti-corruption law whether or not he lives to see it.

    “If the government agrees I will break my fast. If not I will continue fasting to the end. My death will get you the Bill.”
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:07 am

    Nirupama Rao on two-day visit to Paris

    Did Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani cut short his planned four-day trip to Paris because his hosts suggested that the presence in the French capital of India's Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao might create an embarrassing situation for them and him?

    Ms. Rao is on a two-day visit to Paris for Foreign Office Consultations with her French counterpart, Pierre Sellal, during which she will also call on President Nicolas Sarkozy. Counter-terrorism, Afghanistan and bilateral and regional issues are expected to dominate the discussions.

    India will reiterate the point it has repeatedly made in the past about Pakistan acting as a sanctuary for terrorists. Ms. Rao's arguments will have added weight because of the recent events in Pakistan. She is also expected to tell French leaders that India is keen to normalise its ties with Pakistan, but will continue to seek concrete action from Islamabad against the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

    Ms. Rao's trip comes at a particularly embarrassing moment for Pakistan, whose army and spy services have been caught on the wrong foot. During his 36-hour stay (reduced by half without any explanations), Mr. Gilani tried hard to convince the media and the French establishment that the entire world, not just Pakistan, was to blame for the intelligence failure over Osama bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad. That he did not succeed would be an understatement. His remarks were deemed facetious and off-hand by certain editorialists, who scathingly commented on the Prime Minister's inability to confront facts squarely.

    The French establishment too has been jittery about Mr. Gilani's trip, keeping it as quiet as possible. Officially, no meeting was scheduled with French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet. But the latter did make an unscheduled call on Mr. Gilani at his hotel on Wednesday. France is keen to sell military hardware to Pakistan, but now is a very bad time indeed. In contrast to the €450-million military hardware deal being negotiated with Pakistan, India is a much bigger and more lucrative market for France.

    The French will not want to do anything to upset or anger India — especially now with the French Rafale combat aircraft making it to India's final short list of the multi-billion dollar combat fighter deal two — hoping to notch up its very first sale abroad. All told, the French are hoping to sell civil nuclear technology and military hardware totalling over €20 billion. Pakistan is hardly in the same league.

    Pakistan's concerns

    “One of Pakistan's concerns is over the role India will play in Afghanistan, and diplomatic efforts are being directed at convincing the NATO coalition that New Delhi's presence in Islamabad's backyard is a stumbling block to peace. Islamabad has probably struck a deal with Washington by handing over Osama, saying: you have reached your objectives, now withdraw and let us handle Afghanistan. Will the western withdrawal from Afghanistan affect the Pakistani state's attitude to terrorism and proxy outfits? That is difficult to say,” writer, journalist and commentator, Frederic Pons, said in a talk show.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:08 am

    Talks with pilots remain inconclusive

    The second round of talks between striking pilots of Air India and Union Civil Aviation Ministry officials remained inconclusive on Thursday as a much-awaited breakthrough to end their nine-day-old strike could not be achieved.

    “We are satisfied with the progress made so far. We hope a solution will be found over the next day or two,” Capt. Rishabh Kapur, general secretary of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), which is spearheading the strike, told journalists at the end of the talks that went on for more than four hours. The third round of talks is scheduled to be held on Friday. However, both sides kept mum on spelling out sticky issues which are believed to be defying an amicable settlement.

    Civil Aviation Secretary Nasim Zaidi said at the end of the first round of talks on Thursday that there was progress in the talks and only “one or two points” were left to be covered.

    On Thursday, Air India managed to operate 32 domestic flights from six metros as per its contingency plan. The airline, already reeling under heavy accumulated loss running into thousands of crores, has reportedly lost approximately Rs. 140 crore during the period of the strike by pilots.

    Meanwhile, the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has criticised the recent Delhi High Court directive to the striking pilots to discontinue their agitation and resume work.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:08 am

    State hopeful of additional Rs.2,000 crore

    The government is hoping to secure an additional Rs.1,500-2,000 crore from the Centre during Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy's meeting with Planning Commission officials in New Delhi on Friday. He will be meeting them for getting approval for the annual plan outlay for Rs.47,559 crore as part of the Rs.1,28,542-crore State's budget 2011-12.

    As a sum of Rs.4,644 crore is already incorporated in the plan outlay as Central accruals under various heads, the total amount from the Union government during the year is expected to touch a high of Rs.6,644 crore.

    An official team, headed by P. Sudhir, special chief secretary, Finance, and S.P. Tucker, principal secretary, Planning, left for Delhi on Thursday, armed with statistics to claim higher Central funds citing the need to take the State's growth rate from 8 per cent now to 10 per cent during the 12th Plan (2012-13 to 2016-17).

    Mr. Reddy will meet Planning Commission's Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia to get a formal nod to the annual plan size.

    He will leave Hyderabad on Friday morning and is likely to stay back in Delhi for another day to meet UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to discuss various issues of the State, including the Kadapa by-elections.

    He will meet Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Minister of State for Consumer Affairs & Public Distribution K.V. Thomas to seek approval for the State's proposal to export rice to create adequate godown space for rabi arrivals.

    Sources in the Finance/Planning departments said Mr. Reddy would renew his plea to the Centre to implement both Polavaram and Pranahita-Chevella as national projects instead of only one of the two as suggested by the Planning Commission.

    As advised by the commission, the government has decided to undertake energy audit of the free power supply to farmers by fixing meters to their pumpsets.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:10 am

    Kanimozhi, Sharad Kumar slated to appear in 2G special court today

    Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's daughter and Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi, charge-sheeted for alleged criminal conspiracy and accepting illegal gratification in the 2G spectrum scam case, is slated to appear before the 2G special court here on Friday.

    The court had also summoned Kalaignar TV Managing Director and 20 per cent equity holder Sharad Kumar, Cineyug Films Pvt. Ltd. director and Bollywood film producer Karim Morani, besides issuing production warrants for Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetable co-owners Rajiv Aggarwal and Asif Balwa for their role in the conspiracy involving the transfer of Rs. 200 crore from DB Realty to Kalaignar TV between December 2008 and August 2009.

    Taking cognisance of the supplementary charge sheet filed on April 25, Special Judge (CBI) O.P. Saini said he was “satisfied that there was enough incriminating material on record to proceed against the accused .”

    Meanwhile, it has been learnt from CBI sources that the agency would oppose the bail pleas of Ms. Kanimozhi and the other accused, if moved. The investigating agency has, till date, consistently opposed all bail applications moved by the accused in the case.

    On April 13, when five other accused — Unitech MD Sanjay Chandra, DB Realty MD Vinod Goenka and three senior Reliance ADA Group officials Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair appeared in court — the CBI stiffly opposed their bail pleas focussing on the “clear possibility” of witnesses being won over or threatened, besides the “severity of the case and its magnitude.”

    However, the five earned a short-lived reprieve for seven days until April 20, as the status quo regarding their personal liberty was maintained, until the Special Court dismissed their bail applications and sent them to judicial custody in Tihar Central Jail.

    The CBI had submitted the first charge sheet on April 2 in which nine persons, including the former Union Telecom Minister, A. Raja, and three companies were named accused.

    Among the accused indicted in the second charge sheet and issued summons for Friday, only Mr. Morani had moved an anticipatory bail application on Wednesday which has been listed for Friday.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:10 am

    I-T department probe into 2G scam rather slow, says Supreme Court

    The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Income Tax department to file a comprehensive report on its probe into the role of each person involved in the 2G scam from the time it got tapes of the telephonic conversations of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia.

    A Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly gave this direction after perusing the report filed by the Additional Director-General (Investigation) in the I-T department.

    Justice Singhvi told Additional Solicitor-General Vivek Tanka that the report should explain the probe from 2008 in general and from October 2010, from the time it got the tapes of Ms. Radia's conversations, in particular.

    While the investigation by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate had been fast-paced, the I-T department was rather slow in its probe, the judge said. “Since these are cases of tax evasion, the I-T department should have been quicker in its investigation. The figures given in its status report are mindboggling. These are not ordinary cases which require ordinary process. We would like to have a detailed and comprehensive report to be submitted by May 13.”

    When Mr. Tanka told the court that the probe had entered the “fifth layer” and the approach to the case was not tardy, Justice Singhvi said: “We are not concerned about layers but results.”

    The Bench granted the I-T department the liberty to approach the CBI special judge trying the 2G scam if it wanted to examine any official in custody.

    Appearing for the petitioner, Prashant Bhushan referred to the two charge sheets filed, and faulted the CBI for not catching the “big fish.”

    Pointing out that three Reliance Telecom officials had been arrested, he alleged that the CBI was trying to shield chairman Anil Ambani as also top persons in Tata Teleservices, who, he said, were the real beneficiaries. Counsel pleaded for a direction to appoint a committee of eminent persons to assist the court in monitoring the probe so that investigation would proceed on the right track.

    Justice Singhvi told Mr. Bhushan: “You rest assured that no person, irrespective of their chair and wealth or their holding shares or holding high position, will confer any immunity from the law. So far investigation in the case has made some progress which would not have been possible in normal circumstances.”

    Senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the CBI, however, submitted that investigation was still going on into the involvement of the Tata and Reliance companies. He opposed appointment of a monitoring committee, saying it would mean expressing a lack of confidence in the CBI probe. Investigating officers would proceed to Mauritius with Letters Rogatory to track the money trail in the 2G scam. He said the court could wait till July, when a further status report would be filed by the CBI and the ED after completion of investigation in Mauritius.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:11 am

    Centralised assessment of group companies

    The Income Tax Department on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that it had issued orders for centralised assessment of group companies involved in 2G scam.

    In its status report submitted before a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly, the department said it was looking into the sources of income, payments received, details of purchase of infrastructure and source of funds of Etisalat, Videocon Telecom Limited, Uninor and Loop Telecom from 2008.

    The report gave the sequence of the transactions of these firms and said notices had already been issued to them and others connected with the companies involved in the scam.

    The department was looking into the aspect of tax evasion by these companies and for this, orders for centralised assessment of group companies had been issued. The department agreed to submit at the next hearing the progress of the probe.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:12 am

    India's engagement with Latin American countries increasing

    A three-day photo exhibition titled ‘Amazing Amazon' will be inaugurated by Juan Alfredo Pinto Saavedra, Ambassador of Colombia to India, at Amethyst on Friday.

    Mr. Pinto said the exhibition was part of the promotion of trade and cultural relationships between India and Colombia. The exhibition would present the hidden treasures of tribes, flora and fauna along the banks of the Amazon from the Pacific Ocean to the Andes Mountains.

    Talking about the bilateral ties between the two countries, Mr. Pinto said that the Latin American Countries (LAC) were rich in natural resources.

    Market potential

    The LAC and the Caribbean region comprising 43 countries accounted for about 3.67 per cent of the total world trade in 2009.

    Considering the market potential in the Latin American region, an integrated programme ‘Focus LAC' was launched in November 1997 by the Commerce Ministry. The programme was revived from time to time and extended up to March 2014. So far India had signed two Preferential Trade Agreements in LAC region, he said.

    India's total trade with the region increased from 1,732.55 million US dollars in 2000-01 to 16,602 million US dollars in 2009-10, registering an increase of about 858 per cent in a decade. India's export to Latin America was 6.21 billion US dollars in 2009-10 and the imports from the region were 10.39 billion US dollars, he said.

    Focus sector in Chennai

    As far as Chennai was concerned, Colombia was looking at automobile industries, health care and information technology. For this the Colombian business delegates were interacting with companies such as TVS, Apollo, Polaris and Hexaware, he said.

    The country had already signed 14 memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with various chambers of commerce, seven MoUs with different Indian Universities and an equal number with the Indian Government.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:12 am

    Gamlin is Arunachal CM


    Arunachal Pradesh Power Minister Jarbom Gamlin was on Thursday night sworn in as Chief Minister.

    After Governor General (retired) J.J. Singh administered to him the oath of office and secrecy at the Raj Bhavan here, Mr. Gamlin said his priority would be to carry forward the unfinished task of Dorjee Khandu (who died in a helicopter crash). “Our late Chief Minister has already set the mission for development of Arunachal Pradesh. My priority will be to continue the development work that he had started. There are bottlenecks in the communication system. My priority will be to connect all villages with roads. Besides, I will give priority to health and education,” he told journalists. To a question, Mr. Gamlin said his government would ensure implementation of all MoUs signed for setting up power projects.

    Mr. Gamlin was president of the All Arunachal Pradesh Students' Union from 1981 to 1983. He was appointed Home and Parliamentary Affairs Minister in 2004 in the Gegong Apang Cabinet. From 1999 to 2004 he was an MP. Now he represents the Liromoba Assembly constituency in West Siang district.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:32 am

    Air India pilots call off strike

    Air India pilots on Friday night called off their 10-day-old strike after the government agreed to reinstate sacked and suspended pilots. It also agreed to restore the recognition of the pilots' union - Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA).

    Over 800 pilots, belonging to the erstwhile Indian Airlines and owing allegiance to the Indian Commercial Pilots Association, as also executive pilots, will return to work on Friday night, Capt A S Bhinder, the association president said.

    Emerging after five hours of tough negotiations with the civil aviation ministry officials, Bhinder along with ICPA general secretary Rishabh Kapur said all the pilots sacked and suspended during the stir would be reinstated.

    ICPA, which was derecognised soon after the agitation started, will be recognised again, they said.

    "Government has given us assurance that they will look into all our demands including our complaints of irregularities against the airline management," Bhinder said.

    One of the major sticking points was the demand of the pilots for compensation of 75 'fixed flying hours allowance', which their erstwhile Air India colleagues get.

    The striking pilots have been demanding that all sackings, suspensions and transfers effected during the strike period be revoked, ICPA's recognition be restored, the contempt of court petition filed by Air India management be withdrawn, a CBI probe into the alleged corruption and mismanagement be ordered and all other issues be tackled in a time-bound manner.

    Asked about their demand for removal of AI CMD Arvind Jadhav, Bhinder said, "our answer to this is that government has agreed to look into all the irregularities".

    Civil Aviation minister Vayalar Ravi expressed happiness over the pilots ending their stir. "Their is no ill feeling and there will be no feeling of vengeance," he said.

    Asked about the fate of the contempt notices in the Delhi high court, he noted that the court has fixed the next date of hearing for May 25.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:33 am


    BSP MLA, 10 others get life term in engineer murder case

    A trial court in Lucknow on Friday awarded life imprisonment to BSP MLA from Auraiya Shekhar Tiwari and 10 others for murdering PWD engineer Manoj Kumar Gupta after he refused to pay donations for UP chief minister Mayawati's birthday celebrations in 2008.

    Special Additional District Judge Virendra Kumar also sentenced the MLA's wife, Vibha Tiwari, to two-and-a-half years imprisonment on charges of destroying evidences.

    The others who were sentenced to life term in the case are: Vinay Tiwari, Rambabu alias Putti, Yogendra Dohre alias Bhatia, Manoj Awasthi, Devendra Rajput, Santosh Tiwari, Gajraj Singh, Pal Singh, former police station officer of Dibiyapur Hoshiyar Singh.

    Gupta, an executive engineer in Auraiya, was murdered on December 24, 2008, by Tiwari and his henchmen and had dumped the body outside the Dibiyapur police station and run away.

    The Dibiyapur police station officer Hoshiyar Singh tried to protect the ruling party MLA by implicating other engineers of the department accusing them as 'rivals of Gupta'. But as the facts unveiled, Singh was suspended by the government and later his services were terminated along with two police bodyguards of the MLA.

    Gupta's post-mortem report revealed that he was brutally tortured before death. He was mercilessly beaten up and given electric shocks.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:34 am

    PM, Sonia, Chidamabaram pay last respect to Khandu

    Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Union home minister P Chidambaram on Friday paid their last respects to former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Dorjee Khandu, who was killed in a helicopter crash along with four others on April 30.

    The Prime Minister, Gandhi and Chidambaram landed at the Raj Bhavan helipad here in IAF helicopters and were driven straight to the Nitin Vihar residence of Khandu.

    They were at Khandu's residence for 20 minutes.

    They had arrived at the Lilabari Airport in Assam by a special flight from Delhi.

    Prior to their arrival, thousands of people had gathered near Khandu's official residence.

    Khandu's body was found from the crash site at Luguthang in Tawang district on May four, five days after his B3 single engine, four-seater helicopter disappeared after being last sighted at the Sela Pass.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 6:26 pm

    Unaware of money transfer: Kanimozhi

    Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi on Friday pleaded ignorance of the Rs.200-crore transfer from Dynamix Realty to Kalaignar TV.

    Her high-profile lawyer, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, blamed the channel's managing director Sharad Kumar and the former Telecom Minister, A. Raja, co-accused in the 2G spectrum scam case, for the money transfer.

    Ms. Kanimozhi, Rajya Sabha member, holds a 20 per cent stake in the channel. She was summoned to the special court for the first time after having been chargesheeted on April 25.

    Arguing her case, Mr. Jethmalani invoked “the Victorian sense of chivalry” towards women and her “motherhood and clean record” to enlarge her on bail. Arguments on her bail plea were adjourned to Saturday.

    Quoting from the CBI's supplementary charge sheet, Mr. Jethmalani noted that Mr. Kumar had chaired all the Board meetings and signed all agreements with Cineyug Films on behalf of the company and its other directors. He challenged the CBI to produce evidence of Ms. Kanimozhi's involvement, claiming that she was not involved in the day-to-day affairs of the company.

    Counsel pointed to the role of Mr. Raja in the transfer of Rs.200 crore from Dynamix Realty to Kalaignar TV. However, he told Special Judge O. P. Saini that his arguments must not prejudice the cases of the other accused.

    Referring to the charge sheet dubbing Ms. Kanimozhi the “active brain,” Mr. Jethmalani said: “Her misfortune is that she is M. Karunanidhi's daughter and a Member of Parliament. What has her active brain done? Show me one piece of evidence. They have only made dishonest statements in the charge sheet.”

    “If there is one person in this case against whom there is no case of any kind, it is this woman… Her offence is that she is a shareholder. She is not even a majority shareholder. She has only 20 per cent equity… Not a single piece of paper has been signed by her. Not a single Board meeting has been attended by her,” he said.

    Mr. Jethmalani asked the CBI to prove that “she represented the directing will and mind of the company and controlled what the company did.” He concluded, saying: “It is almost impossible to obtain conviction in this case. If a person is not arrested, has not absconded, not interfered with evidence, bail is a right. At least treat it as a reward – a reward for her sex, her motherhood, and for her clean record.”

    Mr. Kumar was represented by senior advocate Altaf Ahmad and co-accused Asif Balwa and Rajiv Aggarwal by advocate Vijay Aggarwal. Mr. Vijay Aggarwal was fiercely critical of the CBI for “arresting his clients” while being more lenient towards Unitech MD Sanjay Chandra, Mr. Kumar and Ms. Kanimozhi.

    Ms. Kanimozhi was accompanied by eight Tamil Nadu MPs and a few dozen party workers led by the former Union Minister, T.R. Baalu, and senior DMK leader T. K. S. Elangovan.

    Ms. Kanimozhi presented a calm demeanour in the court. While leaving, she briefly exchanged pleasantries with Mr. Raja.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 6:26 pm

    Air India pilots call off agitation

    The striking Air India pilots relented on Friday night, putting an end to the 10-day-old agitation which caused much inconvenience to travellers and resulted in a loss of nearly Rs.200 crore to the ailing national carrier.

    Emerging after the third day of marathon talks with officials of the Union Civil Aviation Ministry, the Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) said the strike was being called off from 10 p.m. on Friday following assurances by the Centre that all their demands would be looked into in a time-bound manner. All sacked and suspended pilots would be reinstated and the ICPA re-recognised, the ICPA office-bearers told reporters.

    “We have got a lot of assurances from the government and we appreciate the intervention by the Civil Aviation Ministry. We have full faith in the government and all our pilots who were sacked or suspended are being reinstated,” ICPA general secretary Captain Rishabh Kapur said. All executive pilots who had joined the agitation would also resume their duties.

    Capt. Kapur said the government had assured them that their demands of pay-parity and all other legitimate grievances would be considered by the Justice Dharmadhikari Committee under a strict time-frame. He said the Committee would give its report in November.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 6:28 pm

    Supreme Court issues contempt notice to Sahara chief


    The Supreme Court on Friday issued contempt notice to the Managing Director of Sahara Group Subrata Roy and two others for allegedly interfering with the investigation into the 2G spectrum case and in the administration of justice.

    A Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly issued notice, taking serious view of a questionnaire sent by a reporter of Sahara Samay Television seeking personal information from the investigating officer Rajeshwar Singh, Assistant Director, Enforcement Directorate, New Delhi zonal office, soon after summons were issued to Mr. Roy under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act for recording his statement.

    The Bench, after hearing senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for Mr. Singh also issued notice to Upendra Rai, Editor and News Director of Sahara India and Subodh Jain, reporter seeking their response in six weeks, rejoinder in two weeks thereafter and directed the matter to be listed after eight weeks. Senior counsel Siddharth Luthra, appeared for Mr. Roy and Mr. Upendra Rai.

    The Bench in its order said: “Having gone through the records we are prima facie of the view that an attempt has been made to interfere with the investigation conducted by Mr. Rajeshwar Singh in what has been described as 2G spectrum scam case and related matters. Therefore, we take suo motu cognisance and issue notices to them.”

    The Bench recorded an undertaking from Mr. Luthra that the Sahara India News Network and its sister concerns would not publish/ broadcast any story or programme relating to Mr. Singh on the basis of the 25 questions sent by the reporter.

    Justice Singhvi made it clear that no story or programme should be published or telecast. “If it happens somebody will become a government guest. This should not happen. This is unacceptable. They should know what the lakshman rekha is.”

    Earlier, Mr. Venugopal submitted that after summons were issued asking Mr. Roy to appear before the ED with documents relating to some money transactions which had come under the scanner of CBI on the issue of national security, he did not appear for the summons. Thereafter these questions were sent seeking the response of Mr. Rajeshwar Singh, he said and added they were meant only to threaten and prevent him from conducting further investigation.

    “Nexus is more than apparent”

    Justice Singhvi observed: “It is nothing but a clear-cut threat to the investigating officer when the investigations are on. Nobody needs to read in between the lines. It is ridiculous that the personal life of Mr. Singh has been tried to be sullied after notice was issued. Nexus is more than apparent. People should not take law into their hands. If somebody comes out with threat, it amounts to interference with the investigation.”

    The Bench made it clear that it had already passed an order that there should not be any interference from anyone including the media. Therefore, any attempt to interfere with the investigation would be viewed seriously, it said and issued the contempt notice.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 6:29 pm

    Life sentence for BSP MLA in engineer murder case

    Shekhar Tiwari, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA from Auraiya, was on Friday sentenced to life imprisonment along with nine others on charges of kidnapping and murdering an engineer, Manoj Kumar Gupta, in Auraiya in December 2008.

    The judgment — pronounced by Special Additional Sessions Judge Virendra Kumar at a trial court in Lucknow — comes exactly a week before the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh completes four years in office. Tiwari's wife Vibha was sentenced to a 30-month jail term on charges of destroying evidence.

    Nine others sentenced

    The others who were awarded the life sentence are Yogendra Dohre, Vinay Tiwari, Ram Babu, Manoj Awasthi, Hoshiyar Singh, who was the then SHO of Dibiyapur police station in Auraiya, Tiwari's gunners Pal Singh and Gajraj Singh, and his drivers Satish and Devendra.

    Mr. Gupta, who was posted in the Public Works Department in Auraiya, was allegedly murdered by Tiwari and his henchmen during the night on December 22, 2008. Mr. Gupta was allegedly pressured by the MLA to donate money for Chief Minister Mayawati's birthday celebrations, and was killed when he refused. Mr. Gupta was kidnapped from his house and taken to the Gas Authority of India Limited guest house in Auraiya, where he was tortured and killed.

    The engineer's murder was said to be the fallout of BSP functionaries extorting money from officials as funds for the Chief Minister's birthday celebrations.

    While the Opposition parties and Mr. Gupta's colleagues demanded immediate action against Tiwari, Ms. Mayawati put a stop to donations for her birthday celebrations.

    The case hearing continued for 22 months, and 11 persons were named accused.

    Reaction of parties

    Reacting to the verdict on Friday, Surya Pratap Shahi, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party's State unit, said it had exposed the real face of the BSP.

    He said the case underscored the connivance between ruling party functionaries and the police.

    Samajwadi Party spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary said that though Mr. Gupta's family members would be relieved, the verdict had proved that the BSP rule was a black chapter in the State's history.

    Mr. Chaudhary alleged that efforts were made by the police and officials to shield Tiwari, but justice had finally prevailed.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 6:30 pm

    Jairam lifts stop-work order on Maheshwar Hydel project

    Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has lifted the stop-work order on the Maheshwar Hydel Power Corp Ltd., implying that he was yielding to pressure from the Prime Minister's office and Madhya Pradesh politicians across political lines.

    However, while project promoters are now free to construct the remaining five spillway gates of the dam, the lowering of the gates to fill the reservoir and submerge land will not be allowed until relief and rehabilitation work was completed.

    Work on the project was put on hold a year ago, as promoters had not complied with conditions of environmental clearance — especially the requirement that relief and rehabilitation for those who would be affected by the project must be done simultaneously.

    Activists claim that while 90 per cent of the dam was complete, only 10 per cent of the R&R work had been done.

    In March 2011, the Madhya Pradesh government claimed that 70 per cent of R&R work was complete. However, the State government's own report admitted that only one of those nine villages which stood to be fully submerged had been relocated to a developed site. Those who stood to lose their lands and livelihoods but not their homes, and those villages that would be partially submerged were not even taken into account. In all, activists estimate that 70,000 people in over 60 villages would be affected.

    Mr. Ramesh's order cited multiple letters to the Prime Minister written by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan as well as the former Chief Minister, Digvijay Singh, urging that the project be allowed to continue. The Prime Minister's Office convened a number of “reviews” of the project, the most recent of them held on May 2.

    Mr. Chauhan also claimed that “the reason R&R has been slow is because the project-affected people have begun to think that the dam project will not be completed on account of the MoEF's rigid stance — so why move at all is the attitude of the people.”

    Other factors cited in the decision to lift the stop-work order are the technical reports warning that the gates must be completed before the monsoon to ensure the engineering safety of the dam, as well as the Union Power Ministry's request that the dam project be allowed to proceed so as to provide 400 MW of electricity to the power-starved State.

    Mr. Ramesh said he, therefore, “had no option” but to agree to the lifting of the stop-work order.

    Noting Mr. Ramesh's narrative of the PMO's interventions on behalf of the project, the Narmada Bachao Andolan criticised the order. “That an Union Minister, no less, should repeatedly be prevented from doing his statutory duty by the Prime Minister's Office and should have to state that he is violating statutory conditions on dictation from above, is entirely shocking and shameful, and is a open comment on the crony nature of the current governance in India.”
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 6:37 pm

    Centre to enact law to define drinking water standards

    In India you have quality standards specifications for soft drinks, but none for potable water. The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, under the Ministry of Rural Development, is now seeking to correct the record, and, thankfully, the exercise will cover urban habitations too.

    The department has found the current legal environment for enforcing and regulating drinking water standards very weak in the country as they focus on issues related to large water bodies and their pollution.

    Moreover, the prevailing drinking water quality standards are recommendatory in nature and not enforceable. Institutionally too, there is a lack of clarity between the service provider and the regulating authority. In most cases the service provider doubled up as the regulating body.

    After studying the prevailing standards in countries like Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, the Ministry has decided to put in place an appropriate legal and institutional mechanism to define quality standards, build operator capacity, provide financial support and ensure compliance to ensure safety of potable water.

    Water being a State subject, the way forwards is to develop either a national legislation on the lines of the U.S. or encourage States to have a legislation, as in in Australia, to ensure safety of drinking water.

    The Union government is likely to lay the requirements through appropriate legislations, which the States would adopt and improvise.

    While developing water quality standards, the Centre proposes to impose the list in a phased manner, starting with bacteriological contamination and essential chemicals contamination and include other contaminants like pesticides over a five-year period. This will require capacity labs to test the contaminants to the required standards.

    As regards regulation, it is likely to begin with larger systems and piped water systems and include other smaller systems over a period of time. The Ministry is considering bringing both the private sources and the public water systems that provide water to a minimum defined population.

    While a decision is still pending on whether to have a national regulatory agency or a state level one, the draft, however, has made it clear that in principle the provider could not be a regulator. It has also ruled out the option of self- regulation.

    The Centre and the States will bear the burden of financing investment in part or full, but the paper lays greater stress on the need for a clear policy direction on paying for the operation and maintenance of the system.

    The Ministry has also suggested the need for capacity building support for the operators, financial support to rectify the systems, introduction of treatment and protection measures and ensuring information disclosure and public participation.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sun May 08, 2011 6:55 pm

    Lokpal panel agrees on independent body

    The Lokpal Bill joint drafting committee on Saturday moved towards formulation of a draft with civil society members and government representatives agreeing to set up an independent authority that will be endowed with financial and administrative autonomy.

    Although the sticky issue of including the Prime Minister and the higher judiciary within the ambit of the Bill was set aside for “further discussion,'' the panel, significantly, agreed to do away with the hitherto provisions under the law for sanction by a higher authority to investigate and prosecute politicians and senior bureaucrats on corruption charges.

    At present, to investigate and prosecute a Chief Minister, the Governor's sanction is required. This power will now be vested with the Lokpal (comprising six to 10 members headed by a chairperson) that would require no sanction from any authority under the Lokpal Bill.

    Human Resource Development Minister and panel member Kapil Sibal described the meeting as “exceptionally constructive.'' “The drafting of the Bill will now begin in areas on which there is agreement,'' he said.

    The meeting was chaired by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

    A point that emerged was whether the appointment of Lokayuktas could constitutionally be provided for in the proposed Bill so that there was uniformity in the anti-corruption law.

    “For this, we will have to consult State Governments,'' Mr. Sibal said.

    Civil society members Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan said it was agreed that the process of selecting the Lokpal would be “broad-based, transparent and participatory.'' A search committee would be put in place.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sun May 08, 2011 6:56 pm

    ‘Special status' for women won't apply in 2G case: CBI

    Special Public Prosecutor U.U. Lalit on Saturday opposed as “completely misconceived and untenable” the move by the 2G scam case accused, Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi and Kalaignar TV managing director Sharad Kumar, under Section 88 of the Criminal Procedure Code wherein they offered to execute bail bonds to ensure their presence in court, instead of their moving regular bail applications.

    Mr. Lalit also rejected in the CBI special court here counsel Ram Jethmalani's plea to enlarge Ms. Kanimozhi on bail, in consideration of her being a woman, under Section 437(1)(iii) of the Cr. PC.

    The “special status” provided under the Section for women did not apply to this case and “no case for bail has been made out.”

    Corporate criminal liability

    On the concept of corporate criminal liability Mr. Jethmalani laid out, asking the CBI to prove that Ms. Kanimozhi “represented the directing will and mind of the company and controlled what the company did,” Mr. Lalit, CBI counsel, termed the argument “completely inapplicable.” For, Kalaignar TV as a corporate entity had not been named an accused.

    “Shell companies”

    Responding to the bail applications moved by Asif Balwa and Rajiv Aggarwal, Mr. Lalit alleged that Dynamix Realty, Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables and Cineyug Films were “shell companies” of the DB Group and were involved in the Rs. 200-crore transaction only to “create a smokescreen.”

    He also dismissed the defence claim that Rs.200 crore was an unsecured loan to Kalaignar TV, which had only a turnover of nearly Rs.47 crore.

    “I am yet to see any person lending four times the turnover, without demanding any collateral … On the face of it, these transactions are nothing but the spoils of crime getting transferred to Kalaignar TV as bribe money.”

    Order on the regular bail applications moved by Mr. Balwa and Mr. Aggarwal has been reserved for May 10.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sun May 08, 2011 6:56 pm

    Rs. 1-cr. international Tagore award to be instituted

    Honouring a man whose ardent belief in internationalism and the universal family of man was unshaken, the Indian government has decided to institute a Rs. 1 crore award in the name of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his birth.

    “The government of India has decided to institute a prestigious international award in the name of Rabindranath Tagore to recognise very distinguished contributions towards the promotion of international brotherhood and fraternity,” said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, inaugurating the year-long celebrations on Saturday.

    First award next summer

    The first award is likely to be presented next summer. Each year, a jury headed by the Prime Minister will select a person of outstanding public eminence whose life and work “epitomises the high universal ideals that Rabindranath Tagore stood for.”

    Considering that Tagore's legacy is shared by Bengalis on both sides of the border, it was fitting that Bangladeshi Planning Minister A.K. Khandker was present at the event. Invoking Tagore's timeless message of universal brotherhood, he said Bangladesh firmly believed that to achieve peace and stability, society should be free from the scourge of terrorism and extremism.

    “The government of Sheikh Hasina has promised India that Bangladesh will not allow its soil to be used by elements working against the interest of any country,” he said.

    Renowned as a poet, painter, musician, novelist, playwright, philosopher and teacher, Tagore's “multifaceted genius” is being commemorated with a scheme of integrated cultural complexes to foster activity in a wide range of cultural fields. The Central government will bear up to 60 per cent of the cost for projects under the revamped scheme, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced at the same event.

    The government has also given a special grant of Rs. 95 crore to revive Viswa Bharti, the university founded by Tagore, “which stands as a living symbol of the poet's enduring faith in the learning ability and creative power of the young mind and free spirit,” said the Prime Minister, who is also the chancellor of the university.

    “Viswa Bharti should rightfully be one of the crown jewels of our academic world. But a lot of work needs to be done to restore this institution to its former glory and for it to live up to the true ideals of its founder,” he added.

    The government and the university are also working to preserve Shantiniketan's cultural properties, which will once again be nominated for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site by the end of the year.

    Digital collection

    A digital collection of 2,000 of Tagore's paintings was released at the event by United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who noted his influence on India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, as well as on his daughter Indira Gandhi, who studied at Shantiniketan. “Tagore provided the philosophical underpinnings to the political struggle for freedom,” she said. “His message resonates today when people mistake uniformity for unity.”
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sun May 08, 2011 6:57 pm

    CBI summons two Punjab Ministers

    The Central Bureau of Investigation on Saturday summoned two Ministers of Punjab, Manoranjan Kalia and Chaudhary Swarna Ram, for questioning on May 9, in the case of corruption in which Chief Parliamentary Secretary (CPS) and MLA Raj Kumar Khurana was arrested recently.

    Meanwhile, the Special Court while taking up the case for hearing has extended the remand of the accused Mr. Khurana and Devinder Singh to CBI custody till Monday. While the duo was arrested on May 5 for accepting bribe to “sort out” discrepancies in a land deal, the CBI investigators claimed to have evidence of involvement of the two Ministers.

    Number three in the Punjab Cabinet, Mr. Kalia is the Minister for Industries, Local Bodies and Urban Development, while Swarna Ram is in charge of the portfolios of Technical Education, Industrial Training and Social Security. The two Ministers and Mr. Khurana owe their allegiance to the BJP.

    Meanwhile, after being closeted for most part of Friday, the top leadership of the ruling Akali Dal-BJP alliance decided to throw its weight behind the arrested CPS, accusing the Congress of using the CBI to malign its political opponents. Chief Secretary S.C. Agrawal has written to the CBI about the various loopholes in the case of the investigating agency.

    “Basis not clear”

    The letter, whose copies were released to the media, said: “The basis of proceeding against Sh. Raj Khurana, Chief Parliamentary Secretary, is not clear from the verification report and attached transcripts…No note/file, as attributed in the transcripts and the verification report regarding a purported note from Sh. Swarna Ram, Minister, has been found in the offices of Sh. Raj Khurana, CPS, Sh. Swarna Ram, Minister, or Sh. Manoranjan Kalia, Minister.”

    The State government has expressed concern that such proceedings should be based on thorough verification and not in haste. The Chief Secretary recorded: “In the entirety of facts and circumstances which have come to light, it is felt that perhaps sufficient care and caution was not exercised in verifying the reasons being given…”

    The Chief Secretary also pointed out that the two factions of the Punjab Automobile Mechanics Association, whose land is the centre of the controversy, were involved in prolonged civil and criminal litigation and the matter regarding the control of the society was sub judice.

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